Archive for September, 2009

Meillassoux and Contradiction [Updated]

Posted in Exegesis with tags , on September 11, 2009 by deontologistics

I’ve been a away from blogging for the past week, as I’ve been trying to get back to some of the more boring bits of my thesis and get them done. This has only been partially successful, and as such is ongoing (sorry again to those who want me to write more on Deleuze). However, I’ve also been reading After Finitude (finally). I have a number of things I could say about it, and a few issues with the argumentation (some of which Tom over at Grundlegung has tackled). I won’t go into these in detail, in part because I haven’t yet finished the book, but I will point out what appeared to be somewhat of a non-sequitur in one of Meillassoux’s arguments. I might be misinterpreting him, so feel free to put me right, but it seems somewhat blatant to me.

A preliminary point I would make is that Meillassoux identifies metaphysics with onto-theology. A lot of people do this, and I think its a false adequation (as I’ve tried to show here and here). He takes the mainstay of metaphysics to be the positing of a necessary entity. Through a bunch of very interesting argumentation he produces the principle of unreason, which consists in the necessity of contingency, and this disqualifies all such necessary entities (and thus all ‘metaphysics’). The problem I have is his attempt to deduce the principle of non-contradiction from the principle of unreason.

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Eliminativism and the Real

Posted in Theory with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2009 by deontologistics

I’ve had a couple people ask me about my thoughts on eliminative materialism, and the response I give the usually makes them do a double-take. It has just struck me that my musings on the question of Being provide a good background in which to lay out some of my thoughts on the matter. A disclaimer I will make up front is that although I am sympathetic to the project of eliminative materialism, I have next to no knowledge of the internal details of the Churchlands’ neurophilosophy. What I will be discussing here is that general thrust, with perhaps a few additional ideas thrown in.

As a side note, I appologise to anyone who is waiting for the third part of my series on Deleuze and sufficient reason. It is coming, but I’ve had to rethink the order of explanation so I had to chuck what I had written for it.

1. Strange Bedfellows

I’m possibly the only person in the world who thinks that eliminative materialism and Brandomian anti-naturalism are good bedfellows. It makes more sense than you’d think. Brandomian anti-naturalism denies that the normative dimension can be reduced to the natural dimension. It provides excellent arguments why approaches like teleosemantics (which attempts to build a view of representational content out of biological functional norms) are doomed to failure. What most people see in this is the bestowing of some peculiar and special kind of Being on norms, one which would indeed be alien to eliminativism, but what I’ve been advocating is the idea that it does not, that indeed what it does is deny that norms have any Being at all. On the flip side, it also purifies nature of the normative entirely, including the teleological dimension that the teleosemanticists are appealing to.

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The Question of Being

Posted in Exegesis, Theory with tags , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2009 by deontologistics

When I began my thesis, I started with the naive assumption that most people knew what was meant by Heidegger’s ‘question of the meaning of Being’. Indeed, I thought I knew. The first two years were a systematic exercise in uncovering just how much others, and myself, had taken for granted that we understand what this question is, and simply proceeded to talk about other things, be it the specifics of Heidegger’s own philosophy or the relative merits of other attempts to answer this question.

There is a horrible irony in this. Heidegger raised the question of the meaning of Being in response to the fact that although we think we know what we mean by ‘being’, when pressed we are unable to say what it is precisely that we mean. Moreover, he showed that the fact that we did not see this as itself problematic indicated a historical trend of the forgetting of Being, perpetrated largely by metaphysics. Many of the thinkers who come after Heidegger acknowledge Heidegger’s diagnosis, and they go on to talk about Being in a properly theoretical register, but I get the sense that if they are pressed they are equally unable to say what it is they mean. Being thus becomes an almost empty concept in much philosophical discussion, used in a haphazard way that hinders real attempts at understanding and obfuscates its philosophical import. If anything, this is a worse forgetting of the issue than that perpetrated by metaphysics itself, because we have moved from mistakenly thinking that we know what ‘being’ means in a pre-theoretical way to mistakenly thinking we know what it means in a properly theoretical way. The former is a matter of familiarity while the latter is a matter of hubris.

Obviously, I’m not claiming that all post-Heideggerian thinkers are prone to this misunderstanding. However, I do think that much Heidegger scholarship, and some post-Heideggerian philosophical projects are simply not rigorous enough in delineating what they mean when they talk about Being or the question of Being. In this post I want to try and undo some of the obfuscation this causes by laying out what I take the question of the meaning of Being (or simply the question of Being) to be. Hopefully, this should also illuminate some things I have said elsewhere about the nature of ontology and its relationship to metaphysics (especially here).

One final warning: this post is very abstract. Such is the peril of thinking about Being. If you don’t want to deal with such heavy abstraction, my advice is to think about beings. This post is also very long, pushing 7,000 words this time. I thank anyone who takes the time to read the whole thing in advance, although it need not be consumed in one sitting.

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